Cloe Shasha

Associate Content Producer, TED


This conversation is closed.

What have you learned from a young person recently?

As Adora Svitak artfully demonstrates in her TEDTalk, being open to learning from our youth is crucial for improving our world.

TEDxYouthDay 2011 ( is two months away -- a day dedicated to empowering and inspiring youth on Universal Children's Day (

In preparation for this upcoming event, what anecdotes do you have about how you have learned from youth?

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    Sep 20 2011: Perhaps innocence, novelty and detachment is a great way to tread this sometimes challenging life.

    I heard one little girl giggling as she commented about her father who is getting frustrated (at something else) "Daddy is funny".

    Seriously, we're probably better off controlling our urge to teach the young and rather respect them as precious individuals and understand more their point of view.
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      Sep 20 2011: Joe, that is a great example. Sometimes we learn best from a child's easygoing approach to the world. Young people often appear to be much more resilient to minor daily obstacles than do adults.
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    Sep 20 2011: That sometimes kids aren't afraid to ask the most brilliant questions which is simply: "Why?"

    I don't have a recent anecdote, but something from way back that I remember clearly. In high school, one student just calmly asked why we were required to learn one author's work over another's. "Why is it required?" The teacher's best response was an aggressively evasive "Because I said so, now go sit down."

    However better the situation could have manifested is anyone's guess, especially if the teacher would've only paused and invite the student to express their exact objections. Asking "why" is an awesome catalyst to rethink and rework what's old.

    The fear of failure is so built into our psyche throughout our education. Many adults refuse to ask "why" and simply accept things as they are. Joe's response about innocence, novelty, and detachment reminded me that young kids aren't afraid to ask questions.
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    Sep 24 2011: Not to be so judgemental. Youth don't let things like race, age, gender and etc, to dictate how they relate to someone-- we do as we get older.
    • Sep 25 2011: Have you watched Aimee Mullins talk on her 12 pairs of legs?

      She discusses how children are naturally curious about what they don't know or don't understand and that it isn't until adults infer something is different (in hopes to keep the children polite) that they become scared or judgemental.
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      Sep 26 2011: Hi Erin, thank you for bringing this up. It would be so great if children could keep that.
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    Sep 20 2011: As always it's Curiosity
  • Sep 20 2011: Remembering my OWN childish thoughts has been very helpful for me. I remember no fear, and know that I have no fear now that I am 71. I remember talking to the trees, and I talk to the trees now. I remember my childhood diet and the foods I ate, and eat those raw things now - potatoes from the garden are crisp, wild sorrel is bright, milk is a complete food in the raw state. My own grandchildren eat one thing for three days, and then turn to another thing or food group, just as i once did and now do. It is re-learning, by listening and watching the babies.
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      Sep 20 2011: Thank you for this anecdote. What a cool thing to be able to see your grandchildren doing something that you still connect with today.
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      Sep 26 2011: Deborah --

      There is nothing better for a child than I grandma who talks to trees, eats potatoes right out of the garden and, as my mom does, builds secret gardens where she sets up a fancy table to eat peanut-butter and jelly sandwich picnics with you, or a grandpa as my dad does who takes you to discover creeks he visited as a kid and feeds you ice cream cones for lunch.

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    Sep 20 2011: I have a 20 year old daughter who grew up with four brothers. She understands men far better than I do and I learn a lot from her about being a modern woman.
  • Sep 24 2011: i'm just back from my walking.i saw a 6 year old kid giving small trees to every one on the road.i just went to him and asked why he is giving that to all?he said its his birthday.after speaking with him i have also decided to celebrate my birthday in this way.
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    Sep 23 2011: Cloe --

    Here are three stories that illustrate powerful lessons I've learned from youth:“man-mentor”

    The first is about:
    Two second grade boys I tutored, from polar opposite ends of the learning spectrum. I'll never forget the year I had the privilege of observing them teach me how opposite energies that often obstruct learning can produce constructive outcomes. Most of all, I think, was that they crystallized what few policymakers remember: they were once kids just like these two boys:

    The second:
    Black college football players and white college volleyball players teaching stunned professors the power of candor. Imagine that! Jocks who educators thought more-or-less dumb. Turns out these young people are PhD - level thinkers. Best of all seasoned scholars from America, Africa and China who thought they'd seen it all were stunned and near-silly with excitement to witness both the academic and social sophistication of these athletes.

    And, finally, the third:
    Fifth grade students, who at the end of the year, barely knew each other due to their differences discovered themselves in other students they'd never thought to learn about. Though they were engaged in an intentional exercise I led called "Me to We," I learned by asking their teachers to give me just one hour the kids would more than deliver on my promise -- that given the chance kids empathy is easily triggered in ways adults wouldn't think of -- and sadly, aren't willing to support through educational, social and often even religious funding.

    Most of all these pre-pubescent kids gave me hope. As, of course, the second grade and college-aged youth did, too.

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      Sep 26 2011: Hi Andrea, thank you very much for sharing these three stories. These lessons apply to people of all age! And from all backgrounds. It is true that it is important to remember that all of us, regardless of our profession or lifestyle, were once children.
  • Sep 23 2011: The fact that I really don't know anything. Learning can take place at any time and from anywhere or anyone for that matter.
  • Sep 20 2011: what some of the acronyms mean in text speak! It is like learning an whole new language. Lol!

    And there is a point when you DO actually sound like your parents.
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    Sep 20 2011: They don't know what they can't do - So in essence anything and everything becomes possible -So I learned that we are mostly limited by our OWN limitations...

    That's a great lesson...
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      Sep 20 2011: Very true! We learn to overcome some of our own perceived limitations when we are inspired by a young person with endless ambition.
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        Sep 20 2011: We are able to uncover that young person that has somehow been buried in cynicism, failure, self doubt, loss and lack of opportunity.

        Could it be "The Fountain of Youth"?
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    Sep 20 2011: I have a sister who is 8 yrs younger than me... The way she handles her life with sweet smile and turns all her problems into opportunities of being a good girl... well, I learned that this life is really beautiful !!! :)
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    Sep 25 2011: 1) Eager to learn anything.
    2) Always joyful.
    3) Interaction with lot of people.
    4) Smartness.
    5) Dreaming for self development.
  • Sep 23 2011: When you're speaking to a child, in my experience, you can connect better if you sit/kneel to bring your face to their eye level, avoiding intentional/unintentional 'talking down' to him/her.

    The insight here is that this is applicable, figuratively speaking, to all communication. When you deliberately try to understand, objectively assess and then bring yourself to the level of your audience, the effectiveness of your communication improves significantly.
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    Sep 23 2011: I've learned that if you take a second to view the continuation of society, you could see where the world is headed and where you were headed if you hadn't taken that second to view your stand point. A lot of people go with the flow of life which can lead to dangerous situations. Harming anything ranging from body, soul, mind, and environment. Life is like a game of chess if you want to survive and thrive. Make your next move your best move.
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    Sep 23 2011: I have a young family, 3 and 5 years. So I am learning things from them constantly. Its not what you learn its how you learn...with humility is an good place to start.
  • Sep 22 2011: That the time to build a healthy self-esteem is when they are very young and then throughout their lives.
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    Sep 20 2011: How innocent they are but with that innocence how impressionable their minds can be (i am talking about children here). Also how they really try to make the most out of their moment to moment experiences.

    Children minds are really like blank slates that is just filled with information from their external experiences and it is these experiences that will determine a lot of who they will be once they get older

    I will say this though, in order to understand how beautiful and abundant nature really is (for older people), one must really see nature, as Emerson would say "through the eyes of a child".....This is very true, being that when we get older our priorities shifts our thinking. I have a one year old son, and when he is around nature and is playing in water, his experience I would say is almost transcendental. He is is such an amazement and awe that he is literally focused on the moment.
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    Sep 20 2011: That it's easy for time to wear down your idealism but the experience it brings tends to mellow into wisdom.
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    Sep 26 2011: I've watched my niece grow up to be a strong confident woman after being a strong confident child. I'm amazed at her fearlessness in diving into a new situation. If something doesn't work out the way she wants it to, she finds another way to do it.

    A friend has a son who is about 9. He's able to carry on conversations about baseball with anyone from the casual fan to a baseball fanatic, with knowledge, statistics and enthusiasm. At that age, all I was able to do was say yes ma'am, yes sir.

    I love the way they have taken children should be seen and not heard (my era) and turned it on its head.
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    Sep 26 2011: One thing that I learned from youngters is that each day they wake it is a new life for them.
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    Sep 25 2011: being a teacher, i'm constantly inspired by my learners' desire to connect and their eagerness to contribute. thanks to them, I'm a more effiicient person today.
    in fact, i received my first lesson on teaching from my child when, as a baby, he started responding to the surroundings. he taught me how children learn.
    i wish they retain the 'childhood' so that they can inspire the adults!
  • Sep 24 2011: Simplicity, Honest Intentions, A simple difference between +ve and -ve.
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    Sep 23 2011: That she was pregnant.
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    Sep 23 2011: Hi Jay, well-said. I feel that often as well.
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      Sep 26 2011: Jay --

      I couldn't agree with you more! Nothing more interesting and fun, in my mind.

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    Sep 23 2011: I grew with a kind of "knowledge categorization". That is, there is some knowledge that is better, more desirable, that can be more usefull, that others.
    Of course, this has been possible since positivism came into light, and those with enought power, or influence, created that division.
    I am learning here, as I read, that what the concept by itself is mostly wrong.
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    Sep 22 2011: Well, I have a sister who is 7 years old. Some days ago, I went to pick her up at school and started chatting with some neighbors who were also picking their son up... In middle of way that kid asked my sister to do a race... and my sister said to him "I can win you easily" and eventually she won by a considerable margin.. hehe. I was proud of her; and I think I learned how one should face challenges
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    Sep 20 2011: It wasn't that recently but I learned from a 12-year-old student of mine about Adele: This is the song in particular that she suggested as her favourite. I allow my students to choose music as they do their exercises and I play it for them. So my passion for Adele began right then and there. :)
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    Sep 20 2011: i love how young women treat young men and vis versa.